One of three bites of food made possible by pollinators
Honey bees are invaluable to the health of the U.S. agricultural economy — not to mention Americans — as they enable the production of at least 90 commercially grown crops in the nation. Right here in Virginia, honeybees are essential pollinators for about one-third of the state’s fruit and vegetable crops.
Wherein lies a most frightening outlook.
“Bee populations, as well as the populations of other pollinators such as birds, butterflies, bats and beetles, are declining dramatically. For honey bees alone, this decline is between 30 to 40 percent each year,” said Keith Tignor, State Apiarist, Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
“Other bee populations are on the decline, such as the rusty patch bumble bee which was recently placed on the federal endangered species list. Without adequate pollination, Virginia could experience a significant reduction in its harvest of apples, alfalfa, berries, cucumbers, melons, squash, peaches and pumpkins.”
That is why Governor Ralph S. Northam declared this week as Virginia Pollinator Week. The state celebration coincides with National Pollinator Week, established 12 years ago by the U.S. Senate.
The goal of pollinator week is an important one: to explain the essential role that pollinators play in our environment and agriculture and how the public can play a part in protecting them.
The following are a few ideas to help attract, protect and increase the populations of pollinators in Virginia:
— Plant flowers in a variety of colors and shapes to attract pollinators to your garden, window box or hanging basket. The BeeSmart Pollinator Gardener app is a great aid to get started or go to pollinator.org/guides and enter your zip code for an area-specific guide.
— Support your local beekeeper by buying local honey.
— Set-up a pollinator refreshment station in your garden. Add water or sugar water (never use artificial sweeteners) in a shallow bowl or pie tin with rocks or marbles for the bees to stand.
— Learn more about how to interact with bees so that you can coexist.
— Help raise awareness about pollinators by being an advocate.
— Become a beekeeper and set up your own hive.
State Apiarist Keith Tignor or a local beekeeping association are great resources for more information. Rappahannock resident should contact Tignor at 804.786.3515 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.